Life sentences sought for Turkish journalists

  • 28/01/2016
Turkish journalists hold a banner during a demonstration in support of Can Dundar and Erdem Gul (Getty)
Turkish journalists hold a banner during a demonstration in support of Can Dundar and Erdem Gul (Getty)

By Gulsen Solaker and Ece Toksabay

A Turkish prosecutor is seeking life sentences without parole for two prominent journalists on charges of assisting terrorists, according to a court document seen by Reuters, after they published video footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping to send weapons to Syria.

Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the secular Cumhuriyet newspaper, and senior editor Erdem Gul were arrested in November in a case that has drawn international condemnation and revived concern about press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan.

The two are charged with intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organisation and the publication of material in violation of state security.

Cumhuriyet published photos, videos and a report in May which it said showed intelligence officials transporting arms to Syria in trucks - allegedly to opposition fighters - in 2014.

Turkey's involvement in Syria is particularly sensitive as the NATO member is under pressure to step up the fight against Islamic State militants.

Erdogan, who has cast the newspaper's coverage as part of an attempt to undermine Turkey's global standing, has said he would not forgive such reporting.

He has acknowledged that the trucks, which were stopped by gendarmerie and police officers en route to the Syrian border, belonged to the MIT intelligence agency and they were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria.

Turkmen fighters are battling both President Bashar al-Assad's forces and Islamic State.

A prosecutor is seeking two life sentences plus 30 years for each man, according to the 473-page document submitted to an Istanbul court on Wednesday and seen by Reuters.

The sentences include one of "aggravated" life, which means no chance of parole and solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. It also limits family visits.

The court has yet to decide whether to accept the indictment, according to lawyers familiar with the case. Erdogan and the state security agency are listed as the two plaintiffs in the indictment. The court declined to comment.